“MR. ADRIEN IS not quite ready for you; please have a seat.” I’ve arrived punctually to my made-to-measure fitting at the Beverly Hills studio of the House of A. Sauvage. It isn’t long before I’m ushered upstairs, the costumier greeting me at the door. His long and lean silhouette is swathed in black from head to toe, soft corduroy on the bottom and unbuttoned silk draped on top, accompanied by black sunglasses. Yellow-gold symbols of African lore adorn his hands and chest. His confidence is palpable; he seems devoid of doubt, his look a reflection of his sensibility. The vibe is chill. His frame is illuminated by the glowing California sun refracting from the floor-to-ceiling windows at the far end of his workroom. He welcomes me in and offers me tea.
I learn within minutes that Adrien Sauvage believes in following his own true north. The designer takes heed of omens and numbers and has a deep faith in attaining the heights of his mercantile destiny. In the coming months he is poised to expand his offerings, releasing a collection of fine jewelry and objects of decor emblazoned with the iconography of African strength and eminence. “I tell stories the Western world hasn’t seen before,” he says. “I inject knowledge and consciousness into the product so that people can pick up history and find out about their legacy if they are of African descent.” The sword of Akan of the Ashanti people is woven into a cashmere throw, rings are stamped with Adinkra markings representing the beliefs and practices of the past, and the all-powerful Benin leopard graces an assortment of silk scarves.
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Style is the center of Sauvage’s world. His personal look is a cross between Roger Moore (“the louchest Bond, who had the drip down”) and Miles Davis circa the electric period — perfectly fitted shoulders with languidly cradled hips. Sauvage’s whole demeanor is a swagger steeped in insouciant self-assurance; it’s a mode that he has codified as louche. “Louche is like style. You either have it or you don’t. It’s energy,” he tells me. By definition, “louche” describes something “of questionable taste or morality,” but it is also a kind of decadent appeal. Think sex and ease in a drape cut. It’s about owning and belonging in a look, in one’s skin, in one’s surroundings, and never, ever obsessing over it. It’s a natural vibe.
Sauvage's work in aesthetics began in the early 2000s when he worked as a consultant of fantastical lifestyle and personal image at the nexus of London’s global moneyed elite. His duties involved everything from building bespoke wardrobes to dreaming up lavish affairs like baroque-themed weddings at Karl Lagerfeld’s chateau in Monaco, and converting an antiques shop into a casino-themed tableau vivant as a birthday backdrop. He was like a therapist for vibe and decadence. “I was working with individuals on their look and imagination while making them feel comfortable in their skins,” he says. “The budgets had no limit.” The formula was so successful that he quickly became burned out (or got bored) with his own extravagance. But he’d amassed a roster of miscellaneous European royalty and billionaires with his instinct for blasé flair, and despite “zero formal training.” It’s now been 10 years since he narrowed his focus and committed exclusively to his sartorial talent and building his luxury brand.
At the onset of spring in 2015, Sauvage followed his intuition — and the sun — and flew west to Los Angeles. “I had always wanted to come to America, where there’s so much opportunity,” he says as he gazes out at the blurry haze of the city’s endless horizon. His arrival plan was simple: “I reached out to anyone and everyone I had ever worked with, come across, been on an email with, or met casually, to set up meetings.” One particularly cryptic reply came back. His eyebrows lift and his eyes widen as his tone drops to a near whisper, recounting, “I got, like, the bat-phone call! ‘I need you to be here, but can’t say who it is.’” Unfazed but intrigued, Sauvage turned up at a designated location. As it happened, Stevie Wonder was in need of a wardrobe upgrade. Then Robert Downey Jr.’s people called, and Elon Musk’s, and soon Sauvage was tricking out suits for icons, superheroes, and villains.
As I try on a silk-pajama evening suit, our talk turns to family and roots. He explains that he has just returned from a two-month sojourn in Ghana, where he reestablished his hereditary citizenship, had an exhibition of his photography, and laid the groundwork for a foundation in the name of his ancestor, the lawyer turned merchant W.H Savage. The center will be dedicated to the pursuit of freedom and economic opportunity. Sauvage can trace his parentage to the late eighteenth century — his forebear, born in London to a Nigerian father and an English mother, was the first Black lawyer in Britain, one of the first to work in international criminal law, practicing in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. In his later years he donated the land on which Fourah Bay College was founded, the first institution of higher learning in West Africa, which still stands today. The generations that followed him were men and women of law, medicine, and commerce, who traveled between West Africa and London, serving at various times as representatives to the Crown of England.
In the expansiveness of West Coast living, Sauvage has found the time and space to deepen his transcendental pursuits. “Everyone in LA is flaky, doing their own thing. Being here made me realize a spiritual foundation is important.” He has taken to the study of Kabbalah, finding connection with its mystic teachings and faith that creation is a continuum, rather than a series of discrete entities. He shares with me his holistic vision for the establishment of a fully louche universe, including music and film production. But then the phone in his hand buzzes. “Hold on a minute,” he says, “it’s my rabbi calling.”
Polina Aronova-Cahn Writer
Polina Aronova-Cahn is an editor and writer who connects the interrelated dots of culture, style, and conscious living. Her work is focused on lifestyle communication, translating the tools of mindfulness and holistic well-being into approachable yet aspirational stories of deep human connection.
Skye Parrott Writer
Skye Parrott is the executive editor of Departures. A magazine editor, photographer, writer, and creative consultant, she was previously a founder of the arts and culture journal Dossier, and editor in chief for the relaunch of Playgirl as a modern, feminist publication.